Wednesday, November 14, 2007

young women and public speaking

In the past two weeks, I've trained two young women in public speaking and presentations skills, so I couldn't agree more with a column published today in the Charlotte Observer by book dealer Avis O. Gachet: She recommends training for young women in middle school to help overcome hesitancy about public speaking. She thinks early training is needed because:
Producing larger crops of vocal women will make female opinions a normal, not remarkable, occurrence. Also needed are outlets in precinct meetings, church groups and civic organizations -- particularly those that deal with local issues -- where women can voice opinions on issues that touch them.

When women have something worthwhile to say, let them speak up -- forcefully and publicly. More, more, sisters. We will never have true control over our lives until we do -- no matter how painful, no matter how awkward the initial steps.
From my own experience as a speaker and a trainer, it's rare these days to get training early in your career -- yet that's exactly when women can benefit most. Early training helps you build confidence, as many issues seen as insurmountable may have simple solutions. Too many executives, male and female, build up bad habits through lack of training, then seek to correct them later in their careers. Early training benefits your employer and your professional organizations, as well as your own career: It's a promotion-worthy skill at the office, and you can help promote your profession outside your organization using your speaker skills.

I recommend young professionals talk to their professional societies and community or church groups as well as their HR departments and managers. Ask them to arrange group or one-on-one training, or bring them ideas about speakers and trainers who can address the issue for you and your colleagues. When you have a choice about training to pursue, seek out speaker training first, as it's a skill you can use in many venues. Then pursue opportunities to practice by speaking to small groups (even with friends who also want to practice).

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